dear diary :: another celebration

We arrived home late from Scotland, but safe and sound, on Saturday night. Saturday is the best night to travel back down – the motorways have few heavy goods vehicles and not many cars either, having said that you can still see some horrendous accidents so it was no surprise to witness four ambulances shooting past one after the other along the northbound carriageway of the M61. I always send up a little prayer for those involved and those who are there to treat the victims and then thank God that we remain safe as often it is just the fact of being in the wrong place at the wrong time – a few seconds more or less and that crash could have been us.

On Sunday we surfaced very late and then had to rush off down to town before the early Sunday closing to get bits and pieces for the next project, my grandson’s birthday cake. I am not sure why I volunteered to do the cake, I had less than 24 hours to produce something and I had no idea how I was going to decorate it – other than it would have to be buttercream and some sprinkles. I had to invent something from the few decorating items I could find in Sainsbury’s and being in such a rush of course everything went wrong.

I wanted a tall cake with 3 layers but didn’t have enough sandwich tins of the right size so decided to make one large cake and slice it into three – the mixture takes longer to cook in one tin so I felt it came out a bit drier than when you divide the mixture between sandwich tins. I am still not sure what happened with the buttercream – one minute it was fine then all of a sudden it seemed to be all whippy and too much air – it might have been because I used semi skimmed milk rather than whole milk when I added the liquid. You can see the odd texture in the photo. It was far too late to do anything about it so I just had to slap it on and hope for the best. The stars cut out of the blue fondant icing were a bit of an afterthought to cover up the texture of the buttercream – the problems didn’t seem to affect the taste though. Everyone said it tasted really nice. Thank goodness. It isn’t my best creation but it did the job and little Freddie loved the candle and sparkler.

Making a cake is probably no cheaper than just buying a ready made one from the supermarket. I used to make all the birthday cakes for our two daughters – I have done fairy castles and toadstools, horseriding and ballerina, jungle scenes and pretty flowers, but I am really beginning to think my cake making days are at an end.

As it was so close to the recent christening we just made little Freddie a small tea party to mark the occasion of his very first birthday with both sets of grandparents and mum and dad. He enjoyed himself and thoroughly entertained us – although he didn’t really know what a birthday is.

My daughter had made these delightful little decorations for the tea party out of some wrapping paper and tissue.

Whilst in Castle Douglas on the way back home from Scotland I had a bit of a shopping spree as you can see in the photo – altogether my little haul was less than £15 – so I don’t feel that is too extravagant. In the craft centre I bought these little wooden rabbits ready for Easter.

……and for £2.59 I also bought this instruction card to make the patchwork quilt in the picture using my own fabrics. You buy the card and on the back are all the instructions and measurements for cutting out the strips and squares of fabric to make this design. I have a lot of pretty cotton fabric left over from making the bunting for my daughter’s wedding and it is on my list to make a quilt – I love the design of this one and the colours and fabrics are very close to the ones I have.

I couldn’t leave Castle Douglas without popping in to Tessara – a tiny shop full of beautiful gifts and homewares. There was a sale on and I bought the silver photo frame for my mantel piece – having 3 grandchildren now I need plenty of photo frames.

Today we had a bit of a clear up of outstanding tasks – booking my car service, rearranging an appointment and chatting with a Citroen specialist about our car problems. I also made a few pressed flower cards – so quite a productive day.

I now have to start thinking about our next two projects – our new kitchen and the Burns night supper on Saturday.

These are certainly busy times.

dear diary :: homeward bound

Nothing much happened yesterday other than a trip into the local town of Stranraer – but for me that is quite a pleasant event.  We decided to put the final portion of the tomato soup in a flask, make a sandwich and take lunch with us.  All was calm weather wise and the sun came out so we stopped in the pretty village of Ardwell further up the coast and watched gulls bobbing about on the sea whilst lunching.  The two cottages facing out onto the bay are my very favourite on this coast – much more sheltered than we are.

Would you believe it though, as we turned off the main road into the picnic area by the shore the car beeped and a fault message suddenly flashed on the dashboard screen ‘automatic parking brake fault’ and the service light came on?   Usually when we stop the car when parking the handbrake automatically engages as there is no handbrake to pull on and luckily even if the automatic parking brake doesn’t work you can operate the brake manually with a lever – but it is yet another problem to add to the list.  When we arrived back at the caravan later all messages had disappeared from the screen and the car’s automatic brake came on – so maybe it has corrected itself…who knows!

After lunch we took a quick brisk walk along the beach looking for beach finds then headed off into town – it was bitterly cold so we kept dodging into shops just to keep warm.  I got mum’s card and a lovely one that opens out into a train for Freddie’s 1st birthday.  I had to write mum’s card in the local café to get it in the post – I slipped in a book token for her – as she cannot get out much now reading is quite important to her but this means buying a lot more books.

After a trip to the post office we went round to my favourite hardware shop which is more like a mini department store.  Here you can still buy something as basic as a steel fire basket for your coal fire or some of those old varieties of seed potatoes ….and sure enough they had jam pot covers –there was even a choice and I opted for the mixed pack of waxed circles with the cellophane covers.

It is one of those shops where you feel you can buy anything and coming across a pile of cloths between the dishcloths and floor cloths marked ‘udder cloths’ was no surprise.  They are quite nice – like stiff muslin (maybe you had one Pat on your farm?)  I am sure they might be quite useful for something other than udders – but I couldn’t think what so I put it back.

A lot of the shelves were quite bare having cleared away all signs of the decorations, artificial trees and lights that they have on display at Christmas to the delight of the local children (it is their only Santa Grotto for miles).  The assistants were busy having a bit of a change around as shops do now and just starting to put out their new stock.  It is a struggle for these independent shops to keep going – a lot are family owned and when they retire they are lost and gone for ever leaving increasingly empty gaps like on most high streets.   I always try to buy things when we are up here to help keep them going.

We had a bit of a shock in Tesco though – it is not a big store but bigger than one of their Express stores.  A few years ago they removed the instore bakery but have continued to sell a range of freshly baked bread and Danish pastries; now the section selling the freshly baked bread and rolls has halved in size to one small fitment and they have stopped selling wholemeal loaves altogether unless you want the wrapped steam baked Warburton’s type which I don’t like (too squishy for me). 

What made it worse is the fact that they have now expanded the sugary cakes and doughnuts section to fill the space.  This feels like a big step backwards to me especially in a region that is known to have a pretty bad diet of high fat and sugar foods anyway.  Are people substituting cakes for bread I wonder?  The Tesco assistant said this was not the only store to remove the wholemeal loaves.

When we come here for any length of time we are going to be quite stuck for bread now – we can bring some with us but obviously not for a whole week or longer – I like my bread on the dry side but stale is another thing!

We bought the haggis, a few wee scotch pies (the men love these), macaroni for the vegetarians and some after dinner treats….Tunnock’s of course. There is no way to make haggis look appetising in a photo but here it is.

So today we are homeward bound – car allowing, stopping in Castle Douglas another fine market town full of little independent shops, a huge Wilkos and the best craft shop ever.  Oh and did I mention they have an award winning chip shop – so a bag of freshly cooked chips is a must.

I just need one more turn around the garden to say goodbye until next time.

Have a wonderful weekend. x

PS. The tomato soup recipe is now in the recipe section – click on the tab above the header. Hope you enjoy it Wendy x

dear diary :: a bit blustery

Its not hard to spot the difference between the calm photos of the beach I posted yesterday and these. Waves crashing around and the roar of the swell coming before it has to be seen and heard and can feel quite threatening stood so close – so I didn’t linger too long.

I stayed indoors and made red pepper, tomato and basil soup (click on the Recipes tab for the recipe) while the guy we found to fix the garage door came down. We called him at about 9.30am and he came about 11am – not a bad service. We didn’t even have to pay for parts as we could supply him with the cables (in fact both had gone in the end) and the spring just needed respringing rather than replacing.

So one job down. Umpteen to go.

We didn’t make it into town either we kept warm and read instead, so we are going today. I have two birthday cards to get; one for my mum (she will be 94 come Sunday) and one for little Freddie who is just one year old. Then I need to go to the wonderful Homes and Gardens store for jam pot covers and a mooch around – they have a fascinating collection of everything you could possibly want for your house from teapots to drain cleaners.

Then I need haggis and some Scottish pies to take back with me for Burns night.

Surprisingly, the weather is quite calm today and the tide is way out – it did feel like it was coming up into our garden yesterday so I hope not too much land has been lost on the banking around the bay here.

Have a good day everyone and keep warm x

dear diary :: roaming in the gloaming

The journey to Scotland didn’t start too well.  We were up, packed and ready to go on time but then a power cut delayed us, as we had to wait to be sure everything electrical was off and the burglar alarm set OK, then as we drove the first mile it was obvious the car is still not as it should be….smooth.  The suspension was suspiciously rather bumpy and hard which is not like Citroens at all.  We circled the block a couple of times, me driving, then DH driving as it seems far worse on the passenger side, then we went back home to decide on what we should do.  Already having forked out £1200 for this problem we are reluctant to go back to the same garage.

We decided we would carry on to Scotland turning back at Preston if the suspension had not settled down by then or had got worse.  It more or less remained the same – probably better on the smoother roads like the motorways and no warning messages had activated so we pressed on, fingers crossed all the way.

Anyway we are here in Scotland now and despite all the weather warnings it was gloriously sunny yesterday, but bitterly cold in the breeze.  I have said this before but I do love these grey winter days by the sea, they are quite calming and relaxing. 

And we have no plans other than to relax.

Because of the earlier set backs and subsequent late departure we didn’t get to the cottage (caravan) until 9pm. It was cold inside the van, the central heating boiler had lost water pressure and was flashing fault. Hastily, we scrambled around for the manual to check the fault code – most likely due to a leak it says – no obvious signs inside so we will need to examine the outside pipes under the van in the daylight – in the meantime DH is able to let more water into the system so that we can get the heating up and running again.

Meanwhile, I start to busy myself unpacking and making up the bed with clean linen only to discover that the electric blanket that I had taken home to wash…. was……you guessed it…… still at home. Memories of the recent cake saga flood into my mind. Luckily, we keep a hot water bottle at the van and so this was requisitioned to warm and air the bed which was so cold I could only envisage a night of discomfort. Trying to heat up the whole of the bed a few square inches at a time takes some effort when you are tired and cold and just want to climb into a warm bed and sleep.

After a while we managed to warm up the room and the bed and eventually jumped in fully kitted out with t-shirts and socks….. and actually slept quite soundly.

It was quite late when we surfaced, tired after the long journey, but the sun was shining so after breakfast we went out to survey our land – not quite roaming in the gloaming (which means twilight – I had to Google it) but rather midday.  We always have a wander through the wood and round the garden then down onto the beach to check everything is OK.

Everything was as it should be with no evidence of any fallen trees or flooding, even the burn running alongside the cottage was not as high as it might have been.  It would seem we had survived storm Brendan – only the little path that takes us onto the shore was covered in a pool of water so we had to make do just looking from the banking.

Round the corner from us is in the next bay is a different story; where the coast road runs alongside the beach the road is closed – an action that has been taken far more seriously since the death of the couple and their two dogs last year when they were swept out to sea one stormy night.  It is a long diversion and one that the locals are loathed to take but one that will save lives.  The spray from the sea covers the road and sends up quite large beach stones with it…a treacherous mile known here as the car wash.

So all seemed well until we came to open the garage door only to find one of the cables of the up and over door has snapped.  Being so close to the sea there are certain things you have to get used to – rust is one of them.  The cables rust with the salt from the sea spray, which finds its way in through any crack, and so need replacing quite frequently.  DH is quite capable of replacing them and we always keep a spare or two.  However, as he started to replace the cable the tension spring went as well so now we have a door that we cannot close or open fully.  With this and the car problems I won’t deny the stress is building up a bit.  The search for a garage door fixer is now on. And we have still to locate a possible leak.

In all this turmoil, both in our lives and the world generally who can deny the beauty around us and tuning into nature is one of the best ways to calm down – I tell myself – and it does – I was delighted to see snowdrops dancing around in the breeze and the first daisies appearing in the grass.

There are little signs of new life everywhere and the rabbits have not, as yet, been scratching up the bulbs but I do need to put a little food out for the birds….the table is empty and the robin sits looking quite hopeful at me.

So today while DH is on the phone trying to find a Mr Fix it man I will be making some warming tomato and red pepper soup for lunch. I am hopeful we may get into town for a look around the shops – only a look – there is nothing much we need other than jam pot covers, and we will certainly find them here – we had no luck at home. Keep warm everyone.

dear diary :: ticking off the tasks

Try as I might I do find it difficult to keep breaking off a project once I get started and often I just keep going to the detriment of everything else. I am by nature a completer finisher, a role that made me perfect for my work submitting claims to the legal aid agency; I know some people struggle with the finishing side of things but my problem is often the not finishing as I hate loose ends.

So apologies that I have been absent these last few days – missing in action – so that I could concentrate fully on the tasks I had set myself….to get to the bottom of the laundry basket and complete the subsequent ironing pile and also to get our finances up to date, receipts entered and bank statements balanced, so I could run a year end report.

Both tasks are now complete and I am back on a straight edge…. vowing not to let either task build up again. Famous last words though I think.

The house is also looking tidier than it has since Christmas and every room has had a quick flick of the duster and been hoovered. I even treated myself to a few flowers from Sainsbury’s – I couldn’t resist this little brown parcel of pale pink tulips. I love that they have packaged them in compostable brown paper rather than cellophane.

On Monday I had a few jobs that needed to be done before we leave for Scotland. We are hosting the Burns night supper again this year for our friends and invitations had to be written and delivered before we go. I will buy the haggis while we are up there as there is plenty of choice and some Scottish potatoes which have a lot more flavour.

I had lemons to use up too so I decided on making lemon curd. Both my daughters asked if I would make some for Christmas but I just couldn’t fit it in. Today seemed like a good day to get this done once I had stripped the beds and got the sheets out on the line to blow before the worst of the weather was due to arrive after lunch.

I chose the recipe from this book I found in The Works a couple of years ago. It has less sugar (equal quantity of butter and sugar) than some recipes that have double the amount of sugar to butter.

It is one of the most enjoyable things I make – the smell is heavenly and of course the jars wouldn’t be the same without a few hand stamped labels. No need to put a date on as it won’t last that long.

DH made two batches of soup to use up some of the veg and so we can take some on the journey and put some in the freezer. He also made a curry for tea and some extra to take with us.

My final task of the day was to make apple and sultana cake as I have a freezer full of cooked apple that I need to use up.

Once baked I wrapped half to take with us and put the other half in the freezer. You will find the recipe under recipes in the menu bar.

I am not sure what the weather will be like in Scotland – we have had numerous floodline warnings in the last few days as the tides in the bay are very high at the moment and once again the road where the two people were swept away last year has been closed.

I have a few blogs to catch up on now so need to get reading and the next time I write it will be from bonnie Scotland when we visit our cottage (caravan). For new readers you might want to read the tale of our cottage in the menu tabs above.

creating health and well being

I have been much more mindful in the last few days – noticing what I eat, how much I exercise and how stressed I feel. Even though you know you should do something it is hard to find the time in our busy lives to just do it.

My visit to the physio last Friday was a) the best £40 I have spent in a long time and b) already having an effect on my knee. I was quite hesitant about going as I had a bad experience with a physio at our local NHS clinic who made my neck far worse than it was after a whiplash incident. But I needn’t have worried the lady I saw was brilliant. She has given me a set of very easy exercises to do – I can even do them watching TV in the evening – nothing dynamic but will just give the relevant muscles a wake up call.

After only a few days I am already starting to feel the benefits.

The meditation sessions also feel like they are having a positive effect – I will take my blood pressure before and after so that I can visibly see if this is the case. If nothing else I think it has been quite beneficial on my digestion and I am sleeping better too, not that I had a big problem with insomnia but occasionally I could spend an night when the worries just crowd into my brain and keep me awake.

January so far has been a busy time for us and is set to continue. I confess that we had a couple of days with quick meals because we were home late – egg and chips one night followed the next evening with some caribbean veggie pasties. If nothing else eggs are good for B12 and iron and the pasties have turmeric in them and we had a heap of fresh cabbage to accompany them. This was offset though by our nourishing homemade soups at lunchtime and we have kept off the biscuits and crisps so not all is lost.

So far my growing list of healthy adjustments looks like this

  • drinking green tea in the morning and ginger tea in the afternoon
  • a Braeburn apple a day
  • a meditation session once a day
  • a few easy exercises for my knee
  • fewer snacks
  • homemade soup most lunchtimes
  • healthier meals in the evening with plenty of veg

It takes time to make even small adjustments and get used to doing them and even longer to educate DH into doing the changes (he still makes me ordinary tea some days) but little by little changes are happening.

dear diary :: tackling the tasks

I was up, showered and raring to go today. I had a few tasks I wanted to tick off my list and nothing and no-one was going to get in the way. Everything was going quite well; I was making up the guest bed and our own with the freshly ironed linen, DH was in the garage having a much needed tidy up and for once no interuptions.

There were a lot (and I mean a lot) of dust bunnies behind our padded headboard which is covered in a heavy grey linen fabric – we sleep against the chimney breast so I think the warmth creates more dust that sticks to the fabric. I usually deal with it by using the mattress tool attachment on the hoover I hadn’t intended to pull the bed out and clean behind it but once I noticed the dust I couldn’t just leave it to fester (does dust fester? – maybe not). As I cannot move the heavy wooden bedframe by myself I have to wait until DH is around to help. Today was such a day.

By the end of the morning the bedrooms were reasonably clean again and I had two more post it notes to move into the ‘Done’ column of my kanban board leaving me feeling quite pleased with myself. The laundry and receipts are still ‘in progress’ and until these are completed I will not be starting any other project for the time being.

In the afternoon I settled down to enter some more receipts – weeks 47 and 48 and then I went through the pile of Christmas cards to make a note of who had sent one to me this year and who had not. When I do not hear from someone for more than a couple of years it is hard to know if they have moved, died or have just decided not to keep in touch – in fact this year I had heard from everyone on my list and a couple extra who were not. So with this task done I can now progress to cutting up the cards for tags, money envelopes, bookmarks or recycling.

Tomorrow we will need to go shopping and I shall have to make a meal plan. DH has only 3 tasks on his part of the kanban board – peel and chop the oranges for breakfast, put up the coat rack in the laundry room (we used to hang them in the cloakroom that is now the pantry) and return some items for a refund that we did not use in the pantry.

I, on the other hand have 6 tasks to complete – make some birthday cards, ring to book my car in for a service, plant the pack of tulip bulbs still loitering on the laundry room windowsill (a job I never got round to before Christmas and they have set off growing without any soil), cut up the Christmas cards, set up a bank transfer to pay off the credit card bill and of course the already mentioned meal planning.

Mmmmm….it looks like I might have to do some delegating.

Whilst out shopping in TK Max last week, buying the fridge storage trays, I came across these little pottery planters that are to hang on the wall. I am not sure where I will hang them but I am thinking to grow indoor herbs or even just as a vase for fresh flowers.

creating health and well being

I did my meditation session this morning as soon as I woke up and before I got out of bed. I am following week 1 of the Mindfulness for Health CD that I mentioned in my previous post; a body scan meditation where you concentrate on the breath going in and out and then feel yourself breathing into all your different parts in turn from your feet up to your head.

Extremely relaxing.

Once I was up I remembered to do the weigh in and take measurements. My scales also measure the percentage of fat, water, bone density and muscle as well as weight, but I am not altogether sure what the readings mean – I need to research this.

I was at my heaviest last July and I knew straight away when my clothes started feeling that little bit tight. In my wardrobe I have a mixture of size 10 and 12 clothes depending on style and fit – I always go for comfort rather than stick to one size. The NHS website tells me the ideal weight for my height of 5’6″ is between 8st 3lb to 11st that is quite a wide variation. I think around 9st or just under would be ideal for me – so a few pounds to go.

When I had my thyroid removed the shock to my body caused my weight to plummet to under 8 stone in a matter of days and once out of hospital I had to dash down to Sainsbury’s and find some size 8 clothes so I could go out!

Being dependant on thyroxine it is hard to keep your weight stable as my metabolism is now under the control of my medication – take too little or too much and you have weight gain.

It is not my weight that bothers me as much as muscle mass or lack of it. I feel quite flabby in places and I am an unfortunate apple shape which does not help and my waist measurement is something I would rather not talk about but need to do something about. Any weight gain seems to land on my belly which is not good…. so all the research tells me.

Tonight on’ Trust me I’m a doctor’ they tested two groups of people – one doing brisk walking for 30 minutes and the other group 10,000steps over the day. The group doing the brisk walking had slightly better physical results -so I am on to it. 30 minutes each day round the block at a pace. I might even start tomorrow; but on second thoughts maybe I should wait until I see the physio on Friday.

Today I also had more to drink.

Our meals today were homemade tomato and red pepper soup for lunch and because we were quite tired we had a very quick meal tonight of wholemeal spaggetti, cheese sauce and a very large amount of broccoli to try and introduce a little healthiness! And I didn’t forget the apple.

So all good so far – I think I am slowly getting back on track even though I can’t say that I can feel any dramatic changes as yet.

Thank you for all the encouraging comments and advice – much appreciated. x

seasons :: bedding down for winter

They are certainly grey wintry days at the moment that make you want to stay indoors keeping cosy and warm; reaching for a nearby throw and snuggling down to watch a film or read a book. It is the time of year when the weather can take a turn for the worse; windy, wet and often bitterly cold – we have had all three recently and I find myself yearning for a little snow as snow seems far more pleasant and of course pretty. It is the time of year when you just want to ‘bed’ down and only surface as spring appears.

Indoors I am still ploughing my way through the dirty laundry left over from Christmas and when I have washed and put it out on the line to dry it then becomes part of the ironing pile mountain. Each day I do a little bit in the hope I will ever see the bottom of the basket again – wash, dry, iron then put away. The laundry is a very circular task like prepping, cooking, eating meals then clearing up.

It is the same with our finances – each day I am doing a little bit towards reducing the pile of receipts so that I can balance the bank statements; though I know it would be more satisfying to me if I could take one project to a conclusion, but I also know that if I focus on one thing something else will not get done at all.

I am returning at the moment to my kanban board by my desk in the office / craft room. Here I can stick post it notes to a glass notice board that is marked out in sections – ‘To Do’, ‘In Progress’ and ‘Done’.

The idea is that the tasks move across the board from ‘To do’ to ‘Done’. We each have three colums and there should never be anymore than 3 tasks waiting in the ‘In Progress’ section – only when one moves to ‘Done’ can another task be started. I often give really urgent tasks a different colour of post it note like bright pink – too many of those and I know it is panic stations.

This morning DH made tomato soup for tomorrow’s lunch before finishing off the shelving in the pantry. We decided in the end the lowest shelf didn’t really need the strip light underneath – it seems bright enough in there as it is with the two downlighters.

As I write he is doing the last little finishing touches, then it can be given a final wipe down and I can put the storage jars on the shelves.

Then sit back and admire!

I, on the other hand busied myself hanging the washing out to dry and whilst I was in the garden I reached for my camera. Our mahonia is absolutely magnificent this year and providing us with a lovely splash of colour now all the Christmas lights have been packed away.

Most of the garden has bedded down and is ‘slumbering’ nicely but the primulas have come to life and the cyclamen I planted in the autumn continue to provide me with a lot of pleasure each time I go in and out of the front door.

Even the land cress refuses to give in to the cold wet weather and packed with minerals is an added boost to the supergreen soup we make.

If I looked close enough I could see little signs of life here and there – pushing up through the cold, damp earth and decaying leaves.

For all the signs of life in the garden there has been no signs of life down our road today – not one person to nod or speak to. I think it must be hard to be on your own all day and not see a soul so with this in mind I have added ‘call aunty M and my mum for a chat’ to my list.

creating health and wellbeing

I made the physio appointment today for Friday. It isn’t with the guy I had wanted as he is booked until the end of January and I don’t feel my knee will last that long. I am worried to exercise it now and do the wrong ones – I need specific advise from an expert.

I didn’t attend yoga in the end for the same reasons really – too worried I might put too much of a strain on it even though my teacher is good and will adapt postures to suit need.

I did do a meditation session today….yeah! It was difficult at first to quieten down but soon I was drifting away in my own little heaven, like letting soft waves wash gently over you and after doing it and feeling so good I wonder why I don’t do it everyday – who wouldn’t like to feel completely relaxed and on cloud nine all the time. Of course the answer is distractions and interuptions and giving way to a hundred and one other things I feel I must be doing.

At the moment the CD I am listening to came free with this book. The narrator of the seven various meditations has a very calming, unhurried voice who keeps telling me it is OK if my mind wanders or I don’t feel anything in particular. You just feel what you feel, no right or wrong. I am actually looking forward to tomorrow’s session.

I keep munching the apples too and need to stock up with more soon.

My memory though is pathetic – I forgot the weigh in yet again this morning – I am now worried this may be a form of self sabotage, denial even. I do know the reason though – it is simply that my dressing gown is in the laundry system and I have been getting up and dressing straight away so by the time I remember I need to weigh myself I do not want to undress again.

Today for lunch we used up a dish of leftover mashed potato that was in the fridge so as not to waste it – I heated it up in my ceramic green non stick pan and sprinkled over a handful of grated cheshire cheese, cooked a few mushrooms and added a can of baked beans. There was a bit of healthy side to it somewhere I think and it was warming and delicious.

Tonight we are having the remains of the shepherd’s pie with broad beans (steamed of course). Broad beans are packed with protein and fibre as well as being a good source of both folate and B vitamins, and they contain high concentrations of dopamine – for this reason they are being researched as a possible benefit for anyone with Parkinsons disease.

Starting too many changes is not the aim of my game here but I feel that from tomorrow I will make a big effort to become better hydrated by drinking more and see if this makes a difference to my health.

I have never been a big drinker (alcoholic or otherwise) – at work I always had a small china mug, none of these super sized ‘buckets’ for me. Presently I wake up and have to drink a full glass of water to take my tiny Thyroxine tablet and propel it past my gut into my intestine for it to work properly. I then have an hour to wait before food – but I often end up waiting two – I need to know if this is good or bad thing as yet I haven’t read anything that would tell me. I do know that restricting the hours that you eat is beneficial or thought to be – but that will be for me to investigate another day.

After breakfast I have a cup of green tea and another mid morning then it is a cup of ginger tea after lunch. From then on I have ordinary black tea with milk and a mug of hot milk with an added spoonful of slippery elm at bedtime. The slippery elm is good for lining the gut.

You may notice I don’t actually drink any more water other than in my tea so this is what I will try and rectify by having at least one more glass throughout the day.

I desperately need to get down to planning some meals before we have to go shopping again. We will not need very much as our new pantry actually looks stuffed full of food – I cannot believe that so much came out of our kitchen cupboards.

So after just a few days my health and well being changes list now looks like this:-

  • an apple a day – check
  • a meditation session – check
  • green tea, one or more cups a day – check
  • ginger tea, one or more cups a day – check
  • a healthy breakfast -yoghurt and fruit followed by museli – I think it is
  • a healthy lunch – mostly
  • a healthy evening meal – most days

The question is how long can I keep this up??

dear diary :: gradually moving into the slow lane

There is no doubt that I am slowing down a little and can feel the pressure and urgency of the run up to Christmas fading away now. If a job isn’t finished today I can quite comfortably carry it over until tomorrow and not worry about it.

On Sunday I collected together all the Christmas decorations dotted around the house – I decided I might try storing them in a different place – yet to be identified….and in a different container to the many small boxes they occupied. So at the moment they are pending in the craft room waiting for a new home.

It feels good to have space around me now – not that I had many decorations this year, they were kept to an absolute minimum – but the clearer ledges and tops of the units look simple and uncluttered . Not ready yet for spring colour, like my calendar suggests, I am continuing with winter whites around the house, plenty of white candles, white flowers, and white pottery. A quiet representation of the time of year.

After removing all the Christmas cards I can now display all the thank you cards that keep arriving through the post. It is so nice when people take the time to say thank you and I have been writing out my own cards and delivering them.

There are birthdays to attend to as well – inside this envelope…..

is the last of my pressed flower cards, so card making is another project for my list – but perhaps another day.

This morning I sat down to look at decluttering and updating some of my document files on the computer. I seem to have duplicate files here and there taking up space. I had intended to just do a couple of files but once I started I found it hard to stop and actually spent most of the day deleting old files to the recycle bin.

It is amazing what I found though -articles I had copied down into Word and not got back to reading, craft ideas and ideas for meal plans – in fact a wealth of information at my fingertips.

The weather this morning was cold…. extremely cold and quite blustery but just right for putting the sheets and pillowcases outside on the line, and it all dried in no time but we had to run out and hold it down with extra pegs.

I just managed to catch the best of the weather as after lunch it rained ……heavily. But now the ironing pile is growing faster than I can iron.

DH was busy cutting the pantry wall shelving to size until it got too gloomy to carry on. Only two more shelves to go and then I can start to fill them with my storage jars. He also renewed the car insurance for both cars – a hefty bill – but it is far cheaper to pay the whole lot at once, a monthly direct debit is dearer as they add on a credit fee.

I have a bit of a backlog of receipts to enter onto my computer Money program, so I have grouped them by weeks and intend to do one batch a day each morning. Only then can I balance the accounts and run the reports that will tell me how much we have spent in each category for the year.

Little by little I am doing a bit of tidying up and sorting out – I am hoping by the end of the week to have made some impression on the house and it will not only appear tidy on the surface but be tidy in the cupboards and behind the scenes.

Creating health and wellbeing

I am hoping my new focus on my health and well being will improve my memory as I forgot to weigh myself and take vital measurements again this morning. This requires a post it note reminder on the bathroom door tonight!

So far I can report that I have eaten, all but for one day, an apple each morning. The meditation has not gone quite so well and the reason for this is that once I start a job I hate to break off. With so many extra household chores at the moment removing decorations, stripping beds and putting the house back together, the meditation sessions have been furthest from my mind. Just when I think about doing it I glance at the clock and find it is time to make the next meal.

The meals are going well though – lunch was homemade supergreen soup with some left over crusty bread and last night we had courgettes, mushrooms, celery and onion on a bed of couscous with grilled halloumi slices followed by some fresh raspberries (reduced yellow sticker from Tesco) and just a smidgen of ice cream.

For lunch today we had homemade mushroom soup and tonight a lentil shepherd’s pie with carrot, leek, celery and onion and topped with mashed swede and potato. Unfortunately, I am a bit of a potato fiend and ideally I need to cut down on eating quite so many so I did a slightly higher ratio of swede.

Today is the start of the Yoga class – my knee is still not good and I am still deciding if I should go. I did phone the physio yesterday for an appointment to get an assessment done but didn’t get through so will try again today.

At the moment I am reading an interesting book called Get Well Soon by Nick Duerden who wrote the book after having a very debilitating illness which so far in the book was diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue syndrome after a severe bout of flu. There is very little the NHS can do to help this condition and at the time it was a very controversial subject (probably still is) – there is no magic pill or cure and the book is an account of how he tries to help himself through all kinds of diet, exercise and complimentary therapies to get well. So far he is finding that not a lot of what he tries is helping to alleviate the profound tiredness he is experiencing. As the book progresses I am supposing he does find an answer.

Until I can settle down into a routine of meditation it would not be a good idea for me to introduce any further changes that require time. I am however going to start taking a few supplements that I have identified as being advantages. I already take a daily Vitamin D capsule as my consultant says we don’t get enough in this country during the winter months and quite a lot of the population are found to be extremely lacking when tested.

My neighbour who is Polish and her husband who is English both had a few tests done whilst visiting Poland before Christmas. They cost £30 and they could order a range of tests for such things as cholesterol, diabetes, cancer markers, arthritis and vitamins etc quite easily over there; they just tick off the ones they require from a long list. The results came back within a few days and showed that she was borderline for Vitamin D levels and he was severely lacking. What a shame these kind of walk in requests for blood tests are not available over here – after listening to the health care they get over there it feels like the NHS is quite behind the times over here.

dear diary :: the first hurdle

Thursday was one of those days when I did a bit of everything but gained nothing. I put things away, tidied things up and cleaned a little but the house remained in more of a mess than I would like.

The journey home from Norfolk took my daughters far longer than estimated, this delayed our meal and once everyone arrived any semblance of order was quickly wrecked. Although it is lovely to get together again it will be Sunday before we have the house to ourselves and have some time on our own to get our lives back on track – I am itching to get the pantry finished and start on a thorough clean of the house.

There will be decluttering and rearranging to do of course. Some places in the house have not really had a good sort out for ages and my office / craft room at the moment is in spectacular disarray – I will say no more.

My daughter and grandchildren are staying on until we can get them home and this all depended on whether or not the car would be fixed so whilst we waited for a call from the garage we had a trip into town. Little L does not live near a big town and so rarely visits the shops and was excited to see lots of toy shops. Even though it is after Christmas they were all extremely busy. I looked for something for Freddie’s first birthday coming up soon and Little L delighted in roaming around the shelves. She is surprisingly good and never natters to be bought anything, always content just to look. My daughter bought some new jeans in the sales and we found a unicorn sweatshirt in Primark reduced to £2 for Little L and some Startrite first walker baby shoes for Sweetie at the bargain price of £10 in a local shoe shop (normal price £39.99).

Finally we got a call from the garage and at 5 o’clock collected the car……..fully repaired (we hope this time) and had been cleaned and polished to within an inch of its life. I daresay that this service will have been hidden included somewhere in the bill though.

So today we have a trip up to North Yorkshire to take my daughter and the two girls back home. Everyone is still sleeping at the moment and the house is quiet….but not for long!

Creating health and wellbeing

A bit of a stumble at the first hurdle…..I know, not a good start but like falling off a horse I need to pick myself up and carry on. The meditation session did not materialise on Thursday as we had a few phone calls to deal with and a big meal to prep for whilst my daughters journeyed up from Norfolk and so my flow was broken.

Yesterday with a house full of people it was impossible to find any quiet time. We had lunch in town so I chose a baked potato and salad and I made an evening meal that everyone would enjoy rather than one that was strictly a plate of healthy options.

Today we will be on the road and may eat out again so there is nothing to it but just accept that I get back on track tomorrow.

Not all is lost though. One of the things on my list was to introduce eating an apple a day. I did this for a while not so long ago and decided it would be good to do it again.

Apples have many health benefits such as protection against some of the major diseases, such as diabetes and bone health. They also contain polyphenols (which are micronutrients that have an antioxidant effect) and provide fibre along with vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium as well as small amounts of others. They are also good for digestion.

Eating the Braeburn variety will give you one and half times more polyphenols than other varieties. Luckily it is always my apple of choice and organic ones are available in Sainsbury’s.

So tomorrow I will commit myself once again to begin the meditation sessions. We should have a clear week ahead, no appointments that I know of and no interuptions and I am hoping to be able to focus completely on some of the changes I am making.

Have a good weekend everyone. x

dear diary :: a new dawn, a new day…

As the title above I am reminded of the song lyrics this morning, ‘it’s a new dawn, a new day’…….the bin men are coming so I know the world is slowly returning to normality. A little sad to see everyone’s wheelie bins are out stuffed to the gills and some overflowing – maybe this will change over time as, like many bloggers, we begin to consume less and hopefully packaging becomes more recyclable. With the perils of climate change upon us surely this has to come soon.

There are fewer cars on the drives this morning as neighbours return to work and I feel quite grateful that I have the time to sort out my mess of a house and with the help of my trusty checklist entitled ‘getting back to tidy’ I can bring order back into my life once more, or at least come close to it….. probably the latter.

To help me along I bought one or two cleaning products and as it is very blustery here today I can throw open the windows to bring in some fresh air. I have taken note Sadie of your tip for using Grapefruit essential oil and that is on my list when I next visit our wholefood shop in town – until then I will make do by diffusing some lemon. I can’t wait to get the house smelling clean and fresh and the decorations put away. I have also been able to get the brushed cotton duvet cover and large white bath towels out on the line for a good blow.

My two daughters and the grandchildren will be travelling back from their short holiday in Norfolk today. I shall be glad to see them home safe and sound, like any mum I worry when they are driving about on the roads, everyone is in such a rush these days you take your life in your hands getting from A to B safely. The number of accidents we see now on the A1M when we drive up to North Yorkshire increased dramatically last year and hold ups were a common occurrence.

I thought I would take a few pictures of the lovely Christmas presents I received this year – my friends and family know me so well so everything I received I really love. Sorry for the blue picture quality the light inside is not so good at this time of year.

We are pretty light on presents at our house – as some readers may already know our family take part in a ‘Not so Secret Santa’ so only one gift is bought for each member and this year we reduced the amount down to £25 each rather than the previous £50 to take into account everyone’s changed circumstances. This skin cream by Liz Earle and the handmade glass star was my gift from Santa.

One of my daughters bought an unexpected present for us as a thank you for all the help we gave them to move house just before Christmas – theatre tickets to see the Alan Ayckbourn play Absurd Person Singular. We tried to get to see this before Christmas at the Bingley Little Theatre but could not spare the time, so we are delighted to be going.

DH bought me another subscription year to Country Living and the first issue came with a free china mug designed by Sophie Allport. He also bought me another of the ‘good as gold’ journals from WH Smiths – I use them as my year books filling them with all sorts of notes and cuttings for things I want to save.

I have already started writing and pasting in ideas and notes for January and have found a nice marmalade recipe to do in a few days time.

I had some lovely litle gifts from my friends – a set of white dishes just the right shape to hold an avocado, a handmade glass ornament lovingly wrapped in a piece of stripey cotton fabric and a very large bag of mixed pine cones, fir branches and cinnamon sticks. Wonderful.

One of my other friends always gives us one of those charity donation cards where a donation is made in place of a present. This is also very welcome by me – there must be many people who need the donation more than I need a present.

One or two bloggers have mentioned slow January….I can only hope this is the case. It is rather a hefty month for birthdays here…. six in all at the last count, four family members and two good friends. On the 20th it will be little Freddie’s 1st birthday so that will warrant something a little special, and mum will be 94 the day before. As well as the birthdays we will be hosting our Burns Supper event with our closest friends so we will be going up to Scotland for a few days and bringing back the haggis with us.

I have a cot duvet cover to make and we also need to finish the pantry shelving and do some DIY jobs in my daughter’s new house – coat hooks, curtain poles and renew the shower curtain and bath sealant.

Not looking quite so slow for us then!!

I would however like to think I can snuggle down in January, a little hibernating sounds good to me. Relaxed days by the fire reading or knitting, sketching out plans for shaping the year ahead, browsing through gardening books and maybe, dare I hope, planning that new kitchen or cottage.

And now to other matters – for anyone following along with my health challenge I will be adding this to the bottom of each post.

*******************************************************************************

Creating health and wellbeing

So what of my health challenge – my first day today – after much reading it is evident that to restore your body to good health it has to start with the mind….the brain is in control of everything, I am told, and to calm the brain so healing can begin the brain waves need to be at certain frequency.

We have 5 different types of brain wave: Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, each one has a normal frequency range in which they operate. It is the Theta waves that are most beneficial due to the deep levels of relaxation they facilitate so the body and mind can easily restore itself during and after illness, as well as after mental burnout and physical exertion.

Sounds like I need lots of these then.

With this in mind then meditation is first on my list to practice each day during January. Attaining deep relaxation without going to sleep is not easy. There are so many books and information on the subject though and it is not difficult to find something that will work for you. It might just be sitting and switching off for a few minutes, for me I am choosing to use a guided meditation tape, which is about 30 minutes long and I will block out some time every day, probably during the afternoon.

Alongside of course we are going to be eating healthier food. We are still in the process of eating through the ‘junk’ foods left from Christmas. I shall give away some Christmas cake to my daughter, hide the chocolate biscuits and limit the cream crackers to a couple a day.

We are starting the healthier meals today with a green soup for lunch made yesterday. Dark greens like spinach have plenty of health benefits – helps bone maintenance, lowers blood pressure, protects against eye disease and reduces cancer risk; cooking them in a soup preserves many of the vitamins and minerals too. You can pack a lot of spinach into a soup – more than you can easily manage on a salad.

We will have the soup with bread today but as we go along this will reduce in favour of adding extra chopped vegetables to the soup and some kind of beans for the protein.

My breakfast is low fat organic yoghurt and blueberries followed by a little no sugar museli with fruit and seeds. The blueberries are particularly good for those antioxidants we need.

I am drinking green tea in the mornings, besides reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease, green tea benefits the whole body, contains catechins, antioxidants and can help reduce abdominal fat. It increases the metabolism so if you sip green tea before a workout, the compounds in it increase fat burn during aerobic exercise.

During the afternoon I will switch to ginger tea for the anti-inflamatory properties and will only drink one cup of ordinary decaffeinated tea with milk after our evening meal.

Tonight’s evening meal will be a broccoli and cauliflower bake with potatoes cut lengthways into thick slices, covered in a little olive oil and rosemary and baked in the oven. We are feeding both daughters and partners and the grandchildren so it is something we can all enjoy.

It goes without saying that I will be reducing any cakes, biscuits, pastries, crackers and crisps as I work through January – this is not meant to be a change in eating habits that becomes far too difficult to maintain rather a slow and gradual transformation that is sustainable for the long term. Failing at the first post by restricting myself too much is not a good idea….phasing out (the bad) and phasing in (the healthier) in a more considered way is my plan and I am sticking to it!

I had intended to take body measurements and weigh myself this morning but in the rush to get my day started I forgot. Will do better tomorrow.

It may be a very short post tomorrow as my daughter and grandchildren will be staying until the car is fixed so my attentions will be elsewhere. xx

PS: this post is completely unedited today so apologies for any spelling, grammar and improper apostrophes! Must get my skates on now and get going.